Skip to content

The Odd Couple: Paul Wall & Termanology Interview

They talk about their unexpected chemistry, not dissing peers, and their plans to release a third album
Paul Wall and Termanology pose for photographer Nyjee Evans during the 'Start, Finish, Repeat' album release party at Gold Bar NYC. (Photo credit: Nyjee Evans, provided courtesy of Termanology)

Paul Wall is smiling ear to ear, which is, frankly, nothing new. He’s one of the most infectiously positive rappers in the biz, always moments away from a laugh. But this time, he’s rocking a new beard and long hair, a vast departure from the shaved head and chunky soul patch he sported in the video for his 2005 breakout single, “Sittin’ Sidewayz.” 

The undisputed “People’s Champ” just released his second joint album with Massachusetts-bred MC Termanology, Start Finish Repeat, a combination nobody necessarily predicted. After all, Wall hails from the Houston rap scene, renowned for candy paint, diamond grillz, sippin’ on sizzurp, and chopped and screwed beats. Pairing up with an East Coast rapper with an affinity for ‘90s-flavored boom bap beats was slightly out of left field. But somehow it worked. It turned out Termanology’s wordplay wizardry and Wall’s smooth Southern drawl and effortless rhyming style actually pair perfectly over Large Professor and Statik Selektah beats. 

For their latest record, Term and Wall tapped into their extensive network to recruit fellow rappers Bun B, Big K.R.I.T., Sheek Louch, Nems, and AZ, another symbol of their geographical reach. 

Bun B and K.R.I.T. both come from the South, while Sheek, Nems, and AZ are all New Yorkers. In this interview, the two talked about how chemistry bridged the gap between regions, their plans for a third collaborative album, and how E-40 and the late Pimp C helped Paul maintain his friendship with his former rhyming partner Chamillionaire. 

ST Records/Perfect Time Music Group

Bun B pops up multiple times on Start Finish Repeat. What about your chemistry jives? 

Paul Wall  Bun B is a mentor and big bro to both of us, an inspiration. He’s one of our favorite rappers and one of our favorite people. Him along with Statik Selektah is really what brings me and Term together. It’s one of those things where you don’t realize you have so many mutual close friends. It just brings our relationship that much closer together. Bun B is one of those people that is a rap hero of both of us. To work with him is something that we cherish.

How important is it for you to really click with somebody on a personal level before you jump in and do a song with them?

Paul Wall  I think it just depends on the situation. There are some people that you’ll go to the ends of the Earth to do a song with them. So there are some times where you might stretch the energy to make it work. But it’s always easier and seamless when it’s somebody you mesh well with. 

You and Termanology really have that chemistry.

Paul Wall  The first album we did was such a shock to people. We felt like we made dope music. We wanted to let our fans know that it was out and let hip-hop fans know that it was out. It was kind of an experiment. So when the fans really took to it, it encouraged us to do it again. We’re already working on the third one. 

You heard it here first, folks. 

Termanology  With my fanbase being a lot of backpackers and boom bap guys, they did not see this coming because they know Paul Wall from Kanye West and stuff, so they’re thinking, “OK, it’s gonna be down South music, chopped and screwed.” They’re not thinking that Paul’s rapping on Diamond D, Buckwild, and Large Professor beats, so I think it was really cool to bring in those classic producers from the ‘90s that crafted all our favorite albums and then have Paul flexing some crazy lyrical shit. I think that’s what my fans have loved the most. They’re just mad happy to see him flexing a different style on East Coast boom bap beats. 

Paul Wall  We definitely have to give Term his shine. Term really is the architect behind the album. We’ll toss ideas around, but he’s really the one putting it together and making it happen. 

Termanology  Me and Paul got about 40 records out now. Some people don’t have 40 good songs in their whole catalog. 

Some people don’t have four good songs in their catalog! [Laughs.]

Paul Wall Facts. 

I noticed you remixed a couple of the songs from the first album for this one. How do you decide which to remix? 

Termanology  I always wanted to remix “Thailand” because it was my beat. Just being a producer nerd—from finding the samples to having live bass through Brady Watts—I put a lot into that beat. And that was one of the big singles off the first album. It got a lot of shine and a lot of love. Even Paul told me that that was his favorite. When I asked Smif-N-Wessun if they’d get on it, ‘cause I thought it would be cool to bring Brooklyn into it, they killed it. And then KXNG Crooked had never rapped on a Large Professor beat. I sent him a Statik beat and a Large Pro beat, and he already has an album with Statik, so he was like, “No disrespect, I liked the Statik one, but I’m gonna have to get on this Large Pro beat.” We just like to bring a different flavor with remixes. 

You never know how a remix is going to go because sometimes the original is just so good, it’s a risk to do it again, but these worked. So this year has been huge for hip-hop, the 50th anniversary. It will be interesting to see what happens in 2024 when it’s not as marketable. What are your thoughts on that? 

Paul Wall  I think it’s dope that people are getting honored. It’s definitely a bandwagon kind of thing. It’s similar stuff you see when there’s protests going on for any issue. If it gets to be something that the brands get behind, then it’s the thing to do. 

It’s interesting seeing hip-hop be disregarded in terms of the other music genres to now being celebrated and being the premier style of music worldwide—not just in America. It’s very interesting to see as a fan of hip-hop, to see it grow. I definitely anticipate some of the brands falling off because they’re just here temporarily. They’re not there to support the hip-hop acts—they’re just there to ride the wave a little bit. But I feel like there’s some momentum because it’s brands who historically had closed the doors to hip-hop. Being it’s the 50th year, it’s opened the door to do stuff with hip-hop acts, and now you can see the momentum with those things too. 

We see a lot of hip-hop artists in commercials now. 

Paul Wall  Some of the brands that have been resistant to using hip-hop artists or beats for their commercials now include hip-hop, so I can see it carrying over and growing from that. 

I remember hearing De La Soul’s “The Magic Number” in Spider-Man, and it made me realize our age group is in control now. 

Paul Wall  The double standard that used to be there, where they used to say, “OK, I don’t want to use this particular song because that artist was arrested in the past.” Even if it was arrested for possession of weed or something small, that would be the excuse a lot of brands would use to not incorporate hip-hop. It’s not as scrutinized now.

I think Snoop Dogg is the perfect example. He was charged with murder at one point (but later acquitted) and is now selling Grubhub, Tostitos, and smokeless fire pits. 

Termanology  Now he does Kidz Bops! 

Paul Wall  He’s such an icon for us. If I see Snoop promoting something, I’m gonna support it. His brand, like his Snoop brand himself, everything he aligns himself with is a hit and successful. It’s always something dope. And you always see him treated fairly, and that’s something we as supporters of his brand expect. If we see one of these companies screwing him over, we riding with Snoop.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career? 

Paul Wall  I learned just to focus on yourself. Just what you said with Snoop, watching him pivot even from Death Row to No Limit, that was a time where he thought his career might be over. To see him have tremendous success at No Limit and starting his own brand, seeing that huge amount of success is such a huge inspiration to keep going and to put your best foot forward. 

The universe has a way of working it out for you as long as you keep trying. The path will eventually reveal itself. That’s what Snoop has done. Both of us have a long career. For me, there have been plenty of times… when Chamillionaire and I went out separate ways, that was it. It was over for me. Every record label told me that was it. They told me to go ahead and start booking my DJ gigs again. There were often times people wouldn’t see the vision I had and I didn’t see the vision that others had. When the vision is successful, it teaches you sometimes you just gotta be open-minded. 

I gotta remember I’m doing what I love to do. This is my dream job. This is something that I literally prayed for every day of my life and still do. This is something that I don’t take for granted at all. I treat every verse I write the same, no matter who it’s for, and every concert I perform. This is for sure a job, so we try to be as professional as we can, but this is an absolute honor to do verses, interviews, performances, and all that. 

Termanology  It’s a good career, and there’s definitely some perks with it. You can wake up whenever you want, provided you’re not on tour. You can go to work when you want. But me and Paul, we both got the same work ethic, so we’re working every day. We’re in the studio, we’re brand ambassadors, we’re running record labels and promoting music and beverage companies. We’re always busy. The only time we got for ourselves is probably to spend with our kids and our family. I think having a good attitude in this game gets you far. 

You have to love what you do.

Paul Wall If we won the lottery right now, we’d still be putting music out. 

Termanology  We definitely love it. We both could be doing other things at this point in our career. We’re doing 19-track albums rapping like we’re 19. 

That’s a lot of songs. 

Termanology  Twenty songs is a double, triple album these days. People are putting out seven-track albums because I believe that’s all you need to get a Grammy nomination. That’s what Kanye West did with those Nas, Teyana Taylor, and Pusha T albums. 

Paul Wall People just gotta do what works for them. There’s nothing wrong with switching up how you do it. I’ve made albums several different types of ways. For me and Term, we both go to the studio every single day and do verses either for ourselves or albums for producers. So for us to come up with 40 songs, it’s not from scratch. It’s go in the folder and pick 40 out of the 250 we’ve already done. 

Termanology, Bun B, and Paul Wall post up at the “Thailand” video shoot in Houston. (Photo credit: D Will Get It Done, provided courtesy of Termanology)

You guys are machines. I want to circle back to Snoop Dogg. He always credits Master P for saving his life after he stopped him from doing a Death Row diss track. That was a pivotal point in Snoop’s career, where he could have gone one way or the other. Have you been at a crossroads where you had to make a decision that could have altered your life completely? 

Paul Wall  Absolutely. My whole career, I tried to avoid mentioning other rappers’ names in songs or subliminally dissing other rappers. If I say something about somebody, it’s more what is represented in whatever I’m speaking on. 

I’ve tried to stay away from speaking other people’s names negatively just ’cause once you put it on wax, you can’t take it off. You might not feel the same way now as you do later on. And also, I didn’t come up in battle rap circuits, so it was a little different. Even in the battle raps, you don’t hear them talking about the other person, calling their name unless they’re doing it creatively to diss ’em some type of way. But there was definitely times, one I can specifically think about was when me and Chamillionaire went our separate ways, neither one of us really mentioned each other. He had his beef with Mike Jones on wax, where they had a rap beef on wax, and I wasn’t really included in that. Neither one of them mentioned my name really or brought me into it, so I didn’t get in it. But even before that, when me and him were having our issues, we always tried to understand each other. I think it was just an unspoken rule. 

We grew up with each other. I’ve known him since I was five years old. We kept our personal thing private. We didn’t put it out publicly. We both understood that fans got a kick out of us having a beef, even though they’re a fan of both of us. It’s like wrestling where you want to see the fight because it’s entertainment to you. 

But we’re real people, and we had real issues with each other. It wasn’t a joke to us, so we didn’t buy into that when people were trying to rile us up to diss each other. We both kept it private, and I’m really glad that we did. Because when you look at us as a history of MCs, there’s not on wax me talking about him and him talking about me. 

Are you guys cool now? 

Paul Wall  Oh, absolutely. 

That’s probably part of it. 

Paul Wall Definitely. I remember Pimp C and E-40, both of them being the only two people in the world that would come to me and come to him and say, “Y’all trippin’. There’s way too much money out there. The opportunity is here now and y’all guys grew up together. You guys need to figure that shit out. Don’t put that shit on wax. Keep it to yourself. Keep it player.” 

They both told us that. When Pimp C got out of jail, that was the first thing he said: “What’s up with you and Chamillionaire.” I’d tell him something, and he’d be like, “You’re trippin’. I told him the same thing: “Y’all’s beef is over.” 

So Pimp C was instrumental in your beef not getting any bigger. 

Absolutely. And E-40 as well. He was one of our first mentors who was there for me and Chamillionaire at early, early stages. Bun B was the other one, but Bun B stayed out of it, though. Pimp C went out of his way to tell us we were trippin’. E-40 went out of his way too and gave us a list of all the rappers and rap groups throughout the years that broke up and got back together, and nobody gave a fuck about them. The momentum was gone. He was like, “Is this going to be you or what?”